The verbal bombs being lobbed by incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republicans may be a blessing in disguise for President Clinton. Or a two-year nightmare. The jury's still out. And both sides are a little nervous about the verdict.
Clinton defenders hope salvos like Gingrich's unsubstantiated assertion that one-fourth of the White House staff once had used illegal drugs will backfire - and cause sympathy for Clinton.Those, and statements from Sen. Jesse Helms, can only work to the president's advantage in the long run, these voices suggest.
But Gingrich allies - and suddenly there are many - contend he is only raising legitimate concerns that need to be aired, despite what his talk show-host assertiveness may lack in grace and finesse.
At the same time, an undercurrent of anxiety clearly runs just beneath the surface - a concern that Gingrich could cross the line and go too far.
Incoming Rep. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is one of a handful of GOP candidates who refused to sign Gingrich's "Contract With America."
Coburn said Gingrich could be a liability in districts like his where there are a lot of Democratic and independent voters. Coborn said he wants to be viewed by constituents as "an independent thinker."